Burnside 101 – Tidbits You might not Know

Burnside 101 – Tidbits You might not Know

Sue Winslow-Spragge-—The woman wearing the pearls is my grandmother, Lois Sybil Winslow-Spragge. She and her husband Edward were one of the people who owned Old Burnside.  The other woman is Linda Nilson-Rogers mother–Hilda. Those silver earrings were her favourites!

Sept 1960

Lt.-Col. E. D. Taylor has sold “Old Burnside” to Dr. Morgan Martin who is a member of the Staff of the Federal Department of Health and Welfare, Ottawa. He and Mrs. Martin and their three daughters are expected to move here this week. Col. Taylor and Mrs. Taylor have moved to Ottawa where they will reside at 124 Springfield Road. They have been most highly regarded residents of Almonte for over six years and their departure is greatly regretted. Their twin sons, Peter and Anthony were honor students at Almonte High School and are now attending school in Ottawa.

Their younger son, John, is attending Sedburg School at Montebello, Que. On December 1, 1958 the Board of the Rosamond Memorial Hospital appointed Col. Taylor, who was chairman of the General Hospital Committee, to select a committee and proceed to build a new General Hospital for Almonte and District. The hospital, as everyone knows will soon be built. P & L Taylor resigned from the committee on July 19, 1960 as he planned to leave Almonte and was succeeded by Mr. R. A. Stewart. Col. Taylor also served on the Almonte Town Council for two years. Mrs. Taylor was an active member of the Almonte Women’s Hospital Auxiliary.

Old Burnside, 218 Strathburn Street, Almonte–From Mississippi Mills PDF
Compiled by Linda Hamilton for the Mississippi Mills Heritage Committee, May 2015
Dates: Built 1835-40
Style: Georgian with a Gambrel roof
Architect: Unknown.
Original Owner: James Wylie (1789-1854)
Current Owner: Mr and Mrs Howard Campbell.
Construction: Limestone ashlar.

Notable Features:
This is a grand and imposing stone mansion that is one of the first homes built in the area. The home
features limestone quarried on site, multiple bedrooms and fireplaces, and many original features. The
grounds of this home are also exceptional. It sits on seven acres of forest and garden, enjoys private
river frontage, and has a private stream with a bridge and a waterfall.
The original owner of this home was James Wylie (1789-1854). Wylie was a prominent local citizen in
what was then Shipman’s Mills. He was a merchant, Rideau Canal contractor, postmaster, farmer, and
county agricultural society president. He was also a member of the Legislative Council of Canada.
Wylie came to Perth from Scotland in 1820 and opened a mercantile business. In 1822 he purchased
200 acres of land in Ramsay Township on the Mississippi River from the Protestant Church and built a
log home. This was one of the first homes in the area. He named his property Burnside after the stream
and waterfall that run through it. A ‘burn’ is a small waterfall and this one reminded Wylie of his native
heath. Wylie’s ten children soon outgrew the cabin, so Wylie built the new home to accommodate his
large family. The old log home was incorporated into the second house as a dairy. In the mid 1800s
Burnside was not yet located within the town. It was a small settlement unto itself which included a
general store, a dairy, and a Scotch whiskey distillery.

In 1841 a traveller to Shipman’s Mills made this report of his impressions of the settlement at the falls:
“James Wylie, Esquire, a magistrate and storekeeper, has erected a fine house, his son (William G.
Wylie) another. About half a mile from this, Mr. Shipman’s spacious stone dwelling, his mills and
the surrounding buildings, present a bustling scene. There is one licensed tavern here, and a

In 1848, Wylie built a larger home, named “New Burnside” next door at what was then 255 Hamilton
Street (now Strathburn Street) and moved there. James Wylie’s eldest son, James Hamilton Wylie
brought his bride to the first house (see Appendix B: 1881 Census) and later lived at New Burnside, too.
Two of his six children, John and James lived at Old Burnside as adults as well. In 1912 Old Burnside
was rented to Dr. and Mrs. Macintosh Bell.

Dr James Mackintosh Bell rented the home for two years and bought it in 1914. Born in St Andrews East, Quebec in 1877, Dr. Bell was the grandson of the prominent Presbyterian minister Reverend William Bell of Perth. Dr. Bell was a soldier in WWI and a scientist, geologist, geographer, author, painter, and lecturer. He grew up in Almonte but travelled all over the world. He was very involved in the mining industry and is credited with discoveries in that field. Known as Mack by his family and friends, he studied at Queen’s University in Kingston where he got his MA in 1899. While exploring the Canadian Arctic in 1900, Dr James Mackintosh Bell noticedrocks stained with cobalt and copper on the shores of McTavish arm of Great Bear Lake. He noted this in his notebook.

This eventually led his guide at the time to the discovery of enormous uranium
resources in that area. Radium was so important at that time, that the resulting mine made a fortune. He
was made an honorary member of the Royal Geographical society in 1901 and received his PHD from
Harvard in Geology in 1904. He was named as head geologist to the New Zealand Mines Department
in 1904. While there he met and married his wife Vera Margaret Beauchamp, daughter of one of New
Zealand’s most prominent businessmen. Bell fought in WWI where he was gassed and suffered from
trench fever. After returning from the war, the Bells moved into Old Burnside. They made many
improvements to both the house and the garden, and Old Burnside became known as “Bell’s House”.
Dr. Bell died in 1934 at the age of 57 in Almonte. An article in the Ottawa Citizen at the time of his death clearly reveals what an important and respected person he was in his community. Several hundred people attended, including most of the prominent citizens of the day.

The house was subsequently sold to the Winslow-Spragge family. Theirs was another large family. A
wonderful account of life at the house is reproduced below (Appendix A). This was taken from a book
by Anne Byers called Life and Letters: Lois Sybil Harrington and Edward Winslow-Spragge (2000).
The Montreal Gazette, March 31, 1948, shows Old Burnside for sale for $30 000. Describes features
and gives brief details.

Morgan Martin and his family lived there next and they sold to the present owners, Mr. and Mrs.
Howard Campbell in 1972. The Campbells raised their seven children there. According to an article in
The Millstone from July 20, 2012, the Campbells “spent their lives travelling the world as members of
the Canadian foreign service. But about twenty years ago the couple decided on a new challenge: They
would convert their rambling, 19th century mansion (which The Ottawa Citizen once referred to as
“one of the most exceptional houses in the Ottawa Valley”) into a bed-and-breakfast.”

Apparently there is a story of a “ghost horse” at Old Burnside. The legend is that long ago, during a
winter’s storm, the horse took refuge in the passageway formed by the double wall built two feet thick
to protect the northern exposure, and, unable to turn about and make his escape, was trapped and
starved to death. Its’ hoofbeats can still be heard on winter nights.

Hollywood actress Tori Spelling stayed at Old Burnside for five days in July of 2007 while filming the
movie “Housesitter” with her husband Dean McDermott. Spelling confirmed a rumour that the couple conceived their son during that time. Old Burnside was the setting for the movie “Housesitter”, 2007.

Construction History and Current Building:
Please note that I was not able to go inside this building at the time of research. Information is from
observations from the exterior (road) and from articles and photographs.
Construction: The main building is symmetrical in the Georgian style. It is three full stories high. It faces the river (northeast). It has additions on all sides but the front (see images) which match the house
in style and cladding. However, the limestone ashlar on the main building is coursed, while on the
additions it is irregular. On the northwest face, a main floor “flower room” has a sun porch above which
can be accessed from the second floor. The “day wing” on the southeast houses a library, music
room/study, and has a second floor. This was a more recent addition to the building. Older photographs
show no addition at all, and slightly more recent photos show only a single story addition.

A third addition projects from the back of the building. This was presumably the original log cabin that was then converted into a dairy.

It is clad in limestone as well. A large outbuilding on the property has garages and more living areas. A bridgecrosses the waterfall/stream directly to the northwest of the main building.

Walls: The walls are light brown limestone coursed ashlar. The limestone was quarried on site and is
used both outside and inside. A huge slab of rock is also used as a “stage” that leads southwest into the
sunken garden. The wood for the framing of the structure was also apparently sourced on site.
Chimneys: There are four end chimneys, two projecting from each flat end wall. Although these
chimneys appear to have been modified over time, they are in their original position. A fifth chimney
has been added more recently on the northwest corner. Other modern pipes and vent stacks are also
Doors: The front door is protected by a wood frame enclosed portico with a transom fanlight above the
doorway and a landing with a balustrade on top (see image: 02front portico). This portico was altered
as well; it was a two story portico at one time, with only the upper portion enclosed. At the rear of the
house, three sets of arched double french doors with 12 panes each lead out from the “day wing” onto a
sunken patio area.
Windows: At the front, the second and third story windows are double hung sashes with two over two
lights while the ground floor windows are four over four. These are evidently more modern
replacements of the original windows but they can be seen as they appear today in photos dating from
the 1920s. Older photos show three windows on the upper floor projecting from the roof with shed
styled dormers overhead. The outer two windows have now been converted into gabled dormers while
the central one has been framed with a gambrel shaped roof moulding above it and the wall has been
extended up to incorporate the window. Most of the windows have storm windows on the exterior. At
the back of the house a few original windows can be seen. They are 12 over 12 lights, double hung
windows. Some other multi-paned original (or copies of original) windows are also visible (see image:
05rear of building). Various other windows are present as well. A notably beautiful arched, multi-paned
window can be seen on the southeast side (see image: 04window of southeast wing). The shutters seen
in older photographs are no longer present.

Roof: There is a gambrel roof on the main building clad in teal coloured tin. The additions to the
southeast and southwest (rear) have hip roofs clad in the same teal tin. The main roofline has been
altered through the years. Older photos suggest that the current gambrel roof was created by raising the
central peak of the previously extremely shallow upper roof slopes.
Interior: Old Burnside has many original and beautiful features inside as well. Articles written to
describe the home as a bed and breakfast go into great detail about these elements. The main house has
four bedrooms and a sewing room on the third floor and four bedrooms on the second floor, three of
which have fireplaces and views over the “burn”. On the second floor, at the top of the staircase, is an
archway with a fanlight and sidelights leading to the rear of the house. A tiny staircase serves the kitchen area and a room that was reportedly Wylie’s office. The paneled dining room immediately to the right of the main doorway and hall, was the original kitchen and the old fireplace with its original iron crane still exists. This kitchen hearth, 18 feet of solid rock, is the base of an enormous chimney There is apparently a bake oven hiding behind the butternut paneling beside the fireplace.

Also read- CLICK

Cedarbrae — Winslow Sprague– Old Burnside

Recipes, Clippings and Ephemera — Old Burnside

Did you Know Old Burnside has a Ghostly Horse?

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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